Fantasy Baseball Edge: Most Underrated Players
By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott, and Matthew Schwimmer of Roto Analysis
Catcher: Jason Castro, Houston Astros
Castro was a top 50 prospect in baseball in 2010 via Baseball America, but has been widely forgotten. Now Castro is getting some respect, as he’s owned in 70% of leagues, but he still isn’t widely touted as a startable catcher option in 12 team leagues. Castro is hitting 26.3% line drives, and has never had a season with under a 22.2% line drive rate so far in his young career. Castro recently turned 26 years old, and catchers notoriously develop more slowly than other players, so there’s still time for his skills to develop. Especially in keeper formats, Jason Castro should be on every fantasy owner’s radar.
First Base: James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays
Loney has always been able to hit, sporting a career .285 average and .342 OBP to date. Since 2008, Loney has put up a similar stat line of .280-.290 and 10-15 homers nearly every season. But while Loney has stagnated, the rest of the league’s offense has gotten worse, leaving Loney as an undervalued commodity thanks to the residual poor opinions of him from a different time in fantasy. Buy on him if you are still able to, and add him if you can as he is available in 21% of leagues.
Second Base: Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics
Lowrie hit 16 homers in 97 games with the Astros last season, and the fact that he only has three this year with the A’s would indicate he’s been a disappointment. The good news for fantasy owners is that he has counteracted the loss of power in Oakland’s massive park by also hitting the ball hard with much more frequency—he has improved his line drive rate from 19.3% last year to 27.4% so far this year. Lowrie is also hitting less infield fly balls, indicating that his .302 average might not be truly legitimate. I’d buy low in the hopes that the power might resurface as well.
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
After an absolutely horrid start, Desmond seems to be back to the fantasy stud we saw last season. The Nationals’ lineup has the talent to offer a ton of opportunity to drive in runs and score runs, and we’ve seen Desmond display the power/speed combination that fantasy owners love. The final issue – his average. His current 13 game hitting streak has raised his average from .259 to .277. He can definitely maintain this type of .270-.280 average and given how shallow the shortstop position is, Desmond is a great guy to own.
Third Base: Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
He’s not the sexiest name out there, but Carpenter has been an absolute force for the Cardinals atop the lineup. He is batting .351 while leading off their lineup with an OBP of .438, and that has allowed him to score an absurd amount of runs. Often overlooked by fantasy owners, runs scored are just as important as any other category. Matt Carpenter is currently 3rd in runs – though his power leaves a little to be desired, he is definitely underrated in most fantasy circles.
Outfielder: Nate McLouth, Baltimore Orioles
It’s easy to dismiss McLouth as too old, over the hill, or simply lacking the skills to be an elite fantasy outfielder. However, we think he could be a great guy to “buy high” on. McLouth looks like a whole new hitter at the plate, making contact with everything and only swinging and missing at 2.8% of pitches against him. Not to mention his elite base stealing ability and constant green light, his average should also be a strong .290-.300. His start is no fluke, so try to capitalize on the owner who thinks it is.
Starting Pitcher: Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Although his ERA is still high at 4.86, Porcello has ditched his attempt to be a sinker ball pitcher and is re-inventing his entire strategy on the mound. It seems to be working for the 24-year old as he’s striking out 2.25 more batters per nine innings than he has in his career. The Tigers should expect a performance closer to his 2.97 xFIP the rest of the way, and that could be a huge reward for your fantasy team.
Relief Pitcher: Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
While his 3.30 ERA is not as pretty as many would like for a closer, Reed’s BB/K ratio is excellent and his FIP suggests that his ERA will come down. Reed definitely belongs in the conversation about the elite closers in the game now – his electric stuff will take advantage of any chance the White Sox give him.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @Schwimingly. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.